Category Archives: church launching

How do you find a church?

God told me…

We use billboards, bus benches, mailers, our website, guerilla marketing, pens, bottled water with our name on it, lots of invitations, anything we can think of to give people an excuse to try out God’s good news at Jacob’s Well… but who’d have thought of this?!?

This is a clip from a Communication Cards turned in on Sunday (2.3.2008). You know there’s a story behind this one. I can’t wait for all of Jacob’s Well to hear it.

Leap of Faith

Jacob’s Well started a second service on its 1st anniversary.  That was Sept.2007, and the service is at 6 on Sunday evening.  All our study pointed at this as the time to do it.  It’s great, but poorly attended.  We didn’t launch it right, we pushed it, but only in the context of what we are already did that has tons of momentum.  Now it is time to relaunch it.

Since we don’t have unused money, resources, time or people to do the launch, there was only one option.  Use who we have already to launch it.  This not only gives us a several hundred person launch team, it reminds us why we are here in the first place – to be about what God is up to. That keeps us on target and helps us keep out of reach of the grasp of institutionalism.

So we are suspending our popular 10:30 am service for the 4 weeks before Easter to be about one, and only one thing as a community for those weeks.  Getting a couple 100 new people to Jacob’s Well for whom the 6 pm service will be normative.

I don’t know of any church who has ever done this, but I think it is a noble experiment that has to at least teach us to never do it again.  We will accompany the switch with a heavy dose of advertising in the area and a major push on getting out into the community to meet people, as well as encouraging everyone to invite others during this month.

That’s the short intro to it all.  See the COUNTDOWN on our website (upper right).  It is ticking down the moments  until we start the second venue on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.

Happy Birthday, Spirit Garage!


10 years old this weekend!

Back in 1997 when no one I knew had any idea how to start a new church in a dense, urban, eccentric neighborhood of people who were disillusioned by church, a few people had a vision and a few were crazy enough to try it.  Spirit Garage was born in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.  They pioneered trails that many of us, years later, have followed without having to bushwhack.  The emergent church of today has a debt of gratitude to the leadership and larger community of Spirit Garage!  No, they haven’t found all the answers, but they broke the ice, they said it was possible, they had fun, the gave legitimacy to what many were afraid to express and try.  And 10 years later they are still here.

This Sunday at 10:30 they will celebrate at their venue, the Music Box Theatre, the life they have had over these years.  But if I know them as well as I think I do, they will really be celebrating the life they hope to embody in the years to come!

So, go get your oil changed and consider it a toast to Spirit Garage.  I tip my radiator cap to Rob Norris-Weber, Ryan Torma and John Kerns (Kernsy) and the many mechanics who keep the community tuned up.

And while you are at it, send them a donation to build the next decade with!

Spirit Garage – the church with the really big door
4100 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55409 

Note: Spirit Garage is sort of our sister congregation.  They were started as an outreach ministry of the same congregation that birthed Jacob’s Well, Bethlehem Lutheran Church.   Hats off to them too, this is a great day celebrating their vision having come to life.  Spirit Garage continues to be an arm of Bethlehem, but with complete creative and organizational autonomy.  Jacob’s Well is an independent congregation (they didn’t want us anymore… 😦 )

Vision setting

Jacob’s Well in the next 5 years…

…you asked, so here it is.  Let me say that this is at 35,000′ so it has little substance, just BHAGs.  Let me also say that it may sound smug and prideful to you, and it may be, but I want to believe that the only thing keeping God from using Jacob’s Well for great things is our lack of imagination and courage.

There are two sides to the Vision…

First, Jacob’s Well is our attempt to start a new congregation in an established community for the huge population that has given up on church. It is our intent to grow in depth and breadth. Rapidly!  Why not? (What if a church could do that in an urban setting?!?!)

Second, we are trying to develop new models for ministry that can be effective among the population that doesn’t like going to church. Models that are built on principles (biblically, theologically, sociologically sound) not on styles or personality, so that the models can be contextually applied in other locations.  (What if Jesus’ Church could grow with Acts-like speed in the U.S. today?!?!)

In brief:
Jacob’s Well

2006 Secure funding.  Gather launch team.  Rattle the neighborhood and launch a church for people who don’t like church.  Have new people from the community outnumber the launch team quickly.

2007 Launch second service, implement youth ministries, groups, discipleship process, ministry base of congregation, stewardship.

2008 Second venue for Sunday a.m. worship with its own campus pastor, but rotating speaker and band. Service will be the same as at the Field location. Continue to implement groups, strategic ministries. Develop service and mission through strategic alliances.  Achieve financial self-support.

2009 Launch 3rd (& 4th) venue. Same pattern as 2nd location. (What is really keeping us from launching at least 1 new community every year except our own inability to believe what God is up to around us?) Group life is the solid building block of the community. Special worship experience for youth. Major investment in the neighborhood by congregation.

2011 Association of congregations in the urban metro area (and beyond?), each self-supporting, but with shared office, sharing resources and using it to develop relevant, valuable, creative worship experiences that bring people into the presence of God and create participants into community.

Model of Ministry

2006 Apply to Jacob’s Well.

2007 Unlearn, unlearn, unlearn.  Learn, learn, learn.  Develop and experiment.  Learn from failure.

2008 More of the same.   Begin coaching group for church launchers in the upper midwest.

2009 Help launch congregations in other cities.  Offer first conference.

2011 Association has major role in developing other congregations in other cities as well as developing local venues.

Launchers with lots of faith

I just got back from the NextInitiative church launching conference northwest of Philadelphia.  (Held, btw, at BranchCreek Community Church, an amazing congregation and facility that was incredibly welcoming, helpful to us with their more than competent staff.)  50-some new churches, including some re-launches, were represented by 150+ people.  It is always a humbling experience to be with them.  They are all taking huge risks to do great things.  Few have mega-church dreams, in fact I didn’t hear anyone talk that way.  They are looking at making meaningful communities of believers that are turned towards the world around them.  They want to be smart about it.  They want them to be sustainable and they figure they ought to grow or something isn’t right.  But most of all, they want to make a difference.

I’m one of the people who believes that the local church can make a difference.  That God wants the local church to flourish, not because ‘religious institutions’ are the better than others, but because there is no single place where all the power God shares with us is better manifested and balanced in one place.  Healthy churches can do amazing things that make communities healthy.

Many churches don’t do that, unfortunately.  Many suck up resources from their communities for their own empires that would be better spent other places. But that doesn’t discredit the local church for me.  Those are churches that have lost their vision. lost the passion Jesus had for the next person who needed his love.

My hat is off to those men and women at the conference.

I got back to Minneapolis – it’s Kris’ birthday! – and was soon greeted by thunderstorms and tornado warnings… ominous symbols of the context of our ministry.

Thanks to all who kept the conference in their prayers.  I’ll keep praying for you launchers out there!  Everyone else can keep up prayers for them too, please.  And while you are at it, keep Jacob’s Well in there too!

Church Launcher Resources

I’ll start a section on our website with resources that other church developers may want to take a look at. But for now they are there with no navigation route to them, you just have to type in the address accurately.

Discontinuity Teasers (to help get your leadership thinking in terms that allow God to always shake things open.

A copy of our Vision in a diagram.

A description of the bullseye in our target, Jack & Jill. By knowing and understanding them well we can better and more meaningfully serve them.



Pray for me in Philly


I’m flying to Philadelphia tomorrow (Monday) to co-lead the Next Initiative Church Launching Conference ( with Randy Smith ( for 150 or so church developer type people and their launch teams, and for others who are transitioning churches from declining to a new start. I’m glad to do it and feel ready to present the material because it is stuff I’ve worked with for quite a few years. But my presence will be much more the confessions of a precarious pastor than an expert practitioner. I suppose that is equally helpful. I’m also glad for the opportunity to connect with some very bright people and have time to pick their brains to help with some of the growing pains we have at Jacob’s Well.

Anyway, this conference really is a big deal for the people attending. Many of them are truly turning their lives upside down to launch a new church somewhere. Pray that what I say and do may be helpful to them.

If you will be keeping me in your prayers (the conference is Tuesday and Wednesday) leave a short comment below. I can use the encouragement!